The Democrats’
Election-Year Stunts

You know you are either getting somewhere or losing ground fast when the Democrats begin to exploit your slogans during an election year. Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee chair, last weekend plugged the necessity of pulling troops out of Iraq by year’s end. But his plea couldn’t carry less weight – for his party doesn’t agree with the doc.

“The Republicans don’t have a plan,” Dean said in his party’s weekly radio address. “‘Stay the course’ is not a plan. Saying the problems in Iraq will be left to the next president, is not a plan. … We believe that we ought to focus on training, logistics, and counterterrorism, and we can do that with a redeployment of our troops.”

It took a while for Howard Dean and a few other Democrats to come around to Rep. John Murtha’s call to redeploy troops throughout the region. Yet, even though Dean complains that the Republicans don’t have a plan to pull out troops, he fails to address the reality that the Democrats still don’t have one either. In fact, most of Dean’s colleagues have yet to embrace Murtha’s call, as the failed bills in the Senate proved last week. In a round of embarrassing votes, the Democrats heartily embraced Bush’s prolonged occupation.

In the first set of tallies, the Democrats overwhelming opposed a timetable for withdrawal, shooting down John Kerry’s lethargic proposal to get troops out by July 2007. In the second, even less significant request, Democrats folded again and failed to adopt a plan for redeployment of U.S. armed forces from Iraq.

A broken party, like that of the Democrats, will never be able to challenge the stubbornness of the Republican establishment, which is nearly unwavering in its call for more war and occupation.

Here in New York, Jonathan Tasini is gaining support among a large majority of antiwar Democrats, garnering praise from The New York Times to Amy Goodman’s popular Democracy Now! But as eyes turn toward Tasini’s anti-Hillary campaign, the majority of antiwar New Yorkers are ignoring the largest third-party challenge to Sen. Clinton’s war agenda, and it’s hurting the movement that was finally taking shape. Howie Hawkins, who is running on the Green Party line, has been virtually ignored by the mainstream and even independent press. Hawkins is planning on challenging Clinton all the way up to Election Day, while Tasini’s campaign will come to a screeching halt after the primary election.

Tasini’s bid is indicative of what’s so utterly wrong with the Democratic Party and those who believe they can make change by working within its ranks. Any glimmer of hope siphons dissent: Hope of getting Democrats to “redeploy” siphons dissent. Hope they can mount an internal battle against war hawks like Clinton siphons dissent. The Democrats in general, siphon dissent.

And that is exactly what party brass in Washington desire. They hope the antiwar movement will see the recent attempts to espouse a consistent stance against the war as a sign that the tides are changing. But the tides aren’t changing. Nor is the direction of the Democratic Party or this war, no matter what Howard Dean, John Kerry, or Jonathan Tasini may have us believe.

Read more by Joshua Frank